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We 'Muricans Have A Great Origin Story That We Stopped Telling
The events that led to 04 July, 1776 have been wiped clean from the holiday and our memories and that needs to change
“Objects of the most Stupendous Magnitude, Measures in which the Lives and Liberties of Millions, born & unborn are most essentially interested, are now before Us. We are in the very midst of a Revolution, the most compleat, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the History of Nations.” - John Adams to William Cushing, 09 June, 1776
Reader! You must now be wondering why in Dude’s secular name has your humble author gone from the beautiful, inspirational prose of Founding Father John Adams to Ben Grimm & Stan Lee’s ‘Origins’ and “it’s clobberin’ time!” after such a thrilling title!?
They both tell origin stories and every storied entity needs an origin story.
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The United States of America with all her warts, zits and leaking canker sores today is such an entity and has such a story; but ‘Muricans stopped telling it and thus ‘Muricans stopped caring about it and that is a grave mistake I aim to try and correct. There is a very good reason for this effort and that is honoring our origins ground us in traditions, many of which have been cultivated since the time of the origins, some even ante date the origins but it should be noted that those traditions grounded our forebears and made them capable of living the origin story we so cynically have chosen to forget today.
If we attach great importance to the opinion of ordinary men in great unanimity when we are dealing with daily matters, there is no reason why we should disregard it when we are dealing with history or fable. Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. - G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
At the root of this cynicism is our loss of what my philosophy mentor Brother Francis Maluf called a “child’s sense of wonder”; or, as philosopher Charles Taylor put it back in 2008.
Almost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an “enchanted” world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less “enchanted” world. We might think of this as our having “lost” a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other. We are “buffered” selves. We have changed… The process of disenchantment, involving a change in us, can be seen as a loss of a certain sensibility that is really an impoverishment.
Taylor is lamenting the loss of “enchantment” from formerly Christian civilizations to today’s techno-obsessed modern state, a state that is fed, like the masonic tail eating snake, by denying anything other than its own ability to fix everything as if God, our patron saints and Our Lady had no role to play at all.
A phial of liquid can cure a specific disease, but there can’t be something like the phials brought back from pilgrimage at Canterbury, which contained a miniscule drop of the blood of Thomas à Beckett, and which could cure anything, and even make us better people; that is, the liquid was not the locus of certain specific chemical properties, but of a generalized beneficence.
Of course Beckett’s miraculous blood and the saint’s story behind it, claims as it’s origin story, THE origin story of Man with it’s crowning epoch of the Incarnation, life death, Resurrection and Ascended crowning of Our Lord and all of Christendom that followed as a result. This is an origin story that nearly all of what remains of Christendom has cynically rejected as well and that’s a subject for another day. Like Beckett’s blood enchanting and inspiring the English so too did the blood shed by Henry V’s men at Agincourt. Cross the pond and fast forward 250 years and the shed blood of the patriot’s of the American Revolution at Bunker’s Hill, and Israel “Old Put” Putnam’s heroic cry of “don’t fire ‘til you can see the whites of their eyes”, once inspired most ‘Muricans. Modern historians now assert that the ‘Muricans actually “lost” at Bunker Hill and that it was never verified that “Old Put” ever uttered those words. I say “how the hell do you know?, besides, it’s an enchanting part of our “origin story”. And isn’t that the point? The inspiration of this part of our origin story must be erased now because “science” can’t prove it happened that way?
Bollocks. Here’s my version of this wonderful tale from my 2007 film The Road To Independence.
What of a story almost completely lost to the now digitized mists of time, Washington At Dorchester Heights where Admiral Lord Howe, who had seized control of the Port of Saint Boltoph (Boston), was bluffed back onto his boats and into the Atlantic by the cunning of Henry Knox (a Boston bookstore owner!), who placed dozens of cannon he had “borrowed” from Fort Ticonderoga…
On December 17, 1775, Knox wrote to Washington from Lake George, New York, describing the difficulty of transporting the cannon and mortars: “It is not easy [to] conceive the difficulties we have had in getting them here over the Lake owing to the advanc’d Season of the Year & contrary winds, but the danger is now past; three days ago it was very uncertain whether we could have gotten them untill next spring, but now please God they must go – I have had made forty two exceeding Strong Sleds & have provided eighty Yoke of oxen to drag them as far as Springfield.”
Knox and his men moved the cannon 300 miles in fifty-six days with the help of oxen and ice sledges and arrived outside Boston on January 25, 1776.
After 2 days of shelling (they had no powder until March 1st), Washington, thanks to Knox’s efforts, made the Admiral believe he and his men would soon become fodder for those cannon and they abandoned the city on their man of war ships and sailed back out into the Atlantic from whence they came. The Spirit of ‘76 was off to a great start. What 10 year old wouldn’t be enchanted and inspired by such a tale if they heard it from an equally inspired grandparent?
Most ‘Muricans think they know something about “July 4th” and the Declaration of Independence but almost none know of the tale that the 2 men most responsible for the Declaration weren’t Jefferson and Adams; they were R.H. Lee and George Mason and they were both acting on behalf of their colony soon to become the state of Virginia!
The Declaration story in Philadelphia is an incredible one but what is equally incredible is that it was only made possible by the courage of the Virginians of 1776 who met on 06 may, 1776 for their Fifth Virginia Revolutionary Convention. By noon of 15 May, 1776 the Virginias had voted “to sever all allegiance to the British crown” and become a state! With that, they began drafting their own Constitution and sent word to their delegates in Philadelphia to “draught a Declaration” of the colony’s “independence” which Richard Henry Lee did and introduced to the Continental Congress on 7 June 1776. This became the basis for the Declaration and Lee’s exact words make up the Declarations last paragraph if anyone ever reads that far.
“That these United Colonies are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” - RH Lee
Meanwhile, back in Virginia, George Mason would be tasked with writing what became known as the Virginia Declaration of Rights, draft copies of which he shared with his young protege, one Thomas Jefferson. In Mason’s draft, sent to Jefferson in early June, 1776 (and the final version sent on 12 June) we read thus, see if they sound familiar.
That all Men are born equally free and independant, and have certain inherent natural Rights, of which they can not by any Compact, deprive or divest their Posterity; among which are the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursueing and obtaining Happiness and Safety.
That Power is, by God and Nature, vested in, and consequently derived from the People; that Magistrates are their Trustees and Servants, and at all times amenable to them.
That Government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common Benefit and Security of the People, Nation, or Community. Of all the various Modes and Forms of Government, that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest Degree of Happiness and Safety, and is most effectually secured against the Danger of mal-administration. And that whenever any Government shall be found inadequate, or contrary to these Purposes, a Majority of the Community had an indubitable, inalianable and indefeasible Right to reform, alter or abolish it, in such Manner as shall be judged most conducive to the Public Weal.
Jefferson is obviously inspired by Mason’s work and who wouldn’t be even til this day? but alas, the tale is completely missing from any telling, if there are any, of the creation of that document ‘Muricans were most fond of quoting until Snoop Dog took the title away.
Finally what ;Murican school child, fresh from “sex transition & advanced lesbian acts” class, knows of Caesar Rodney of Delaware’s famous “midnight ride”?
Rodney was a delegate from Delaware who was also the commander of the Delaware militia. Rodney was called away from Philadelphia to go “put down a loyalist rebellion” which he did then returned home to his farm. On the evening of July 1st a messenger arrived from Philadelphia with the word that tomorrow a vote was to be held on “a Declaration of Independence” and that Delaware’s delegation would vote “abstain” because McKean and Read were split. Rodney, who suffered a disfiguring face cancer, donned his green beret that covered the wound and mounted his horse to begin the 70 mile journey to Independence Hall for the next morning’s vote. Just past midnight, a thunderstorm arose forcing Rodney to ride through torrential rain and wind. At 9:00am the vote began, McKean, knowing Rodney would try and make the vote, convinced Hancock to vote from North to South to allow Rodney time to arrive and just as Delaware’s turn was up, Rodney burst the doors open into Independence Hall “covered in mud and still in his boots and spurs" to vote “aye” on the Lee Resolution and Jefferson’s Declaration.
What’s even lesser known is that John Adams, who knew the Declaration vote must be unanimous, was ready to table the whole affair for another day if Rodney was a no-show. After the Revolutionary War began, many in Delaware declared Rodney to be “the man who saved Independence”.
In a less “scientific” and more enchanted age, all of these stories —and there are literally hundreds more— would be eagerly told and passed down from one generation to the next as part of our origin story. The Founding Fathers weren’t perfect men and yes, I wish they had been predominantly Catholics who might have built the American governing tradition around the reign of Christ the King but alas they weren’t and in most areas they didn’t (though they did try and honor the subsidiarity of Christendom, a gift we have now completely squandered) BUT that doesn’t mean our origin story isn’t a good one with heroes and villains and certainly worth passionately telling while we work to words the Christian version of a “more perfect union”.
Before I purchased, read and nearly memorized Stan Lee’s “Origins of Marvel Comics” I had been tasked in my 5th grade class play with playing Patrick Henry in our reenactment of the famous “Liberty or Death” speech. It was a tall order for a 5th grader but I was required to memorize most of the speech, which I did and can still fondly quote from memory. That speech has never left my memory nor the life story of the man who delivered it who I believe was a sort of recusant catholic (he confessed on his deathbed that he was “a high Episcopalian”). In my mind, Henry was part of ‘Muricah’s “Origins” story, and he is still today. Maybe this little insignificant ramble will inspire you to find an American “origins” story you can fall in love with and share with your kids. I quoted John Adams to begin, but I only teased you. Here is the quote in its entirety.
A blessed Independence week to you!
Our Lady of America, ora pro nobis!
Objects of the most Stupendous Magnitude, Measures in which the Lives and Liberties of Millions, born & unborn are most essentially interested, are now before Us. We are in the very midst of a Revolution, the most compleat, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the History of Nations. A few Matters must be dispatched before I can return. Every Colony must be induced to institute a perfect Government. All the Colonies must confederate together, in some Solemn Compact. The Colonies must be declared free and independent States, and Embassadors must be Sent abroad to foreign Courts, to solicit their Acknowledgment of Us, as Sovereign States, and to form with them, at least with some of them commercial Treaties of Friendship and Alliance. When these Things shall be once well finished, or in a Way of being so, I shall think that I have answered the End of my Creation, and sing with Pleasure my Nunc Dimittis, or if it should be the Will of Heaven that I should live a little longer, return to my Farm and Family, ride Circuits, plead Law, or judge Causes, Just as you please. - John Adams